Boxer fights for life after collapsing before debut

He was rushed to hospital for brain op after tragedy struck at sparring session

THE REPORT WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE STRAITS TIMES ON NOV 9, 2012

Shahril Salim was supposed to be making his debut as a professional boxer at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) tonight. Instead, the 21-year-old is now fighting for his life at the Singapore General Hospital.

He was rushed to hospital for emergency brain surgery on Oct 28 after collapsing following a group sparring session at the Juggernaut Fight Club in Boat Quay.

Shahril and fellow trainee Syafiq Abdul Samad were preparing to make their debuts on the undercard of World Boxing Association featherweight champion Chris John's title defence against Thailand's Chonlatarn Piryanpinyo tonight when tragedy struck.

As a sign of good faith, MBS and event promoter Dragon Fire Boxing have each pledged $10,000 towards his medical expenses, even though they are not liable in any way.

Part of the boxer's skull has been removed to relieve the swelling inside caused by internal bleeding. It is not known whether the injury was caused by a punch or was the result of a pre-existing condition.

When The Straits Times visited the 21-year-old shop assistant in the intensive care unit, along with Syafiq and Juggernaut coach Arvind Lalwani, the former ITE College East Simei student was breathing by himself but was unable to speak. However, he could move his fingers in response to visitors.

Mr Lalwani, 32, said: "This is a nightmare for everyone. All we want is for Shahril to get better again. It was a freak accident but obviously, there is always a risk when someone is participating in something like this.

"Some boxers have hundreds of fights without incident so this is really unheard of. All we can do is try and minimise the risks as much as possible."

He said Shahril had been wearing a headguard during the sparring session and that everyone had used gloves weighing 16 ounces, which have additional padding, for extra safety. Boxers usually fight with gloves weighing 10 ounces in the ring.

Shahril's brother Jufri said the family is still struggling to come to terms with what has happened.

"Some have said that they wished they never let Shahril get involved in boxing," added the 29-year-old, who works as a freelance musician.

"But we had seen some hope in him, boxing had given him that. He was trying to do something for the family and the family's name."

jturner@sph.com.sg